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It is necessary to mention the discussion about the Asiatic mode of production which was very important for Soviet scholars in the 1960es – early 1970es. The point of this discussion was the problem of difference between Asiatic and antique modes of production (as it was formulated by Marx), and the problem of specific characters of the Oriental economy. The Soviet students of antiquity didn’t take an active part in this discussion. But for them it became a reason to think about specific characteristics of the polis, the interest in Near Eastern communities led to the interest in Greek and Roman civic communities. Elena Shtaerman argued for the theory of the uniqueness of polis institutions and their principal influence on the development of European civilization. Greek polis was considered as a unique deviation from the usual "oriental" way of development of human society. The discussion about the crisis of the polis, unlike that of Asiatic mode of production had a purely scholar audience, but didn’t arise any public interest. Greek polis could not be regarded as an important or actual topic for the Russian intellectual opinion in Soviet times either. Meanwhile the idea of the crisis of the polis in the 4th century B.C. and later became rather popular among Soviet scholars (Liya Gluskina, Lyudmila Marinovich). Now this conception is important only for historiography, but it played an important role in the evolution of our views on polis.
What were the reasons for Soviet scholars to support this conception?
Of course, it was not because of ideological pressure, as in the case with "the revolution of slaves" in the 1930 – 1950es. For Soviet historian of antiquity to be a Marxist was very profitable, but rather dangerous in the 1930 – 1950es, and rather profitable, but not very prestigeous since mid-1950es. Surely, there were specific scientific reasons for attention to this aspect. But maybe the interest to the crisis problems was not accidental and reflected some public or intellectual necessity? Can we speak of some historic feeling of the Soviet historians in this case? I think we can.
Only one example: in the opinion of Liya Gluskina, the main reason for the polis crisis was the rising contradiction between the interests of individuals and those of the state (polis) in the 4th century B.C. and later, and the polis crisis was the result of crisis of the polis ideology, first of all, and not that of the polis economy. Ideology prevailed over economy;
it was a conclusion, very untypical of the Soviet scholars.
The conception of polis/city dichotomy, supported by Gennadii Koshelenko, was another example of a creative development of Marxism by Soviet scholars in the late 1970es – early 1980es.
So the polis remained for Soviet scholars of antiquity an instrument for a purely scholar analysis. But for the scholars of native history it remained a sign of the European (western) way of development, and they tried and still tries to connect (at least to compare) Greek polis with Russian medieval cities. This comparison should "prove", to their mind, the similarity between Kiev Russia and Western Europe. This idea was not a new one;
it was supported by Michail Rostovtzeff in the beginning of our century. The scholars of Russian history in the 1970 – 1980es reanimated the concept of similarity between ancient Greek and medieval Russian cities and made clear parallels between ancient Greek cities and those of medieval Russia again. This point of view was supported mostly by St.-Petersburg scholars (I. Froyanov and others). But it was only a remake of an old conception.
In the late 80es during the discussion in "Vestnik drevnei istorii" Elena Shtaerman tried to proclaim her (Marxist) views on ancient communities;
but for her opponents they were the plusquamperfectum of historical studies. The discussion in “Vestnik drevnei istorii” on the problem of the rise of ancient states showed clearly the complete victory of the positivist theory in the Russian historiography of antiquity. Both the young and the middle generation of modern Russian scholars of antiquity escape any methodological problems and prefer studies of concrete fields. It is a very natural and understandable response after a long period of strict ideological pressure. It takes years to return interest to methodology of history in Russia.
So the polis problem has disappeared from the works of modern Russian scholars of antiquity. As a rule the terms "polis" and "state" are used interchangeably by the scholars of antiquity in Russia now.
To sum up, the polis has never been in the centre of wide-scale intellectual discussions in Russian and Soviet society. It was too far from the main points of interest for intellectual discussions in Russia: the problem of interaction between the power and the individual and that of the place of Russia between the West and the East. Greek polis couldn’t help to explain the alleged Russian uniqueness;
it had remained a sign of European ordinariness, and the students of Russian history tried to compare it (maybe in vain) with medieval Russian cities. But for the Soviet scholars of antiquity since the late 1950es the "polis" has had a very important role as a professional term. So the uniqueness of Greek polis became very useful in rather unique conditions of Soviet historiography.
I. ATHENIAN POLITICAL LEADERS Nicias: The Last Politician of "the Old School" Nicias is not the brightest star among Athenian politicians. He was not lucky, a major Athenian defeat in Sicily is associated with his name. Modern scholars, for the most part, are interested in Thucydides' attitude to Nicias. However, Nicias is a critical figure in the history of the political life of Athens. He is, probably, the last politician who tried under new conditions to act on the pattern of "the age of Pericles". His personal failure is connected with a changed mentality of the Athenian citizenry which Nicias did not take into account. It is significant that warning the Athenians against Sicilian expedition, he pointed out to the remoteness of Sicily and magnitude of the whole undertaking. His arguments were similar to those of Themistocles who before Cyrus' invasion called for building a fleet to fight against Aegina, the adversary quite tangible and understandable. But the mode of behaviour of the citizenry had drastically changed;
the Athenian demos of the time of Nicias was absolutely sure of its strength and invincibility of Athens. It was a manifestation of the imperial psychology – the times of arche had left their mark.
Words used by Herodotus, Thucydides and orators testify to the fact that the Athenian demos was gradually acquiring features of the mob (ochlos) and that the politicians of the old school were being replaced by politicians of a new type – demagogues Cleon, Hyperbolus and others.
Nicias' political career began under Pericles, at the start of the Peloponnesian war he conducted a few successful operations as a strategos. In the course of his famous political debate with Cleon (425 BC) he cedes his initiative to his adversary.
The top of Nicias' activity falls on the end of the 420ies when he initiated a peace agreement between Athens and Sparta.
During the Sicilian expedition Nicias acted indecisively, which was one of the main reasons for the crushing defeat of the Athenians. Despite this fact, Thucydides stresses his valour, the valour of a politician of the old school who had to deal with ochlos, rather than with demos. With Nicias' death and the Sicilian defeat a new era dawned for Athens – the imperial grandeur became the thing of the past, the arche ceased to exist, and a new type of a politician, politician-demagogue appeared in the foreground of the political life.
Hyperbolos, "A Wretched Man" Fate of the well-known Athenian popular leader, whose pick of political activity fell on the height of the Peloponnesian war, attracted attention of ancient and modern historians primarily in connection with the end of ostracism. Was political activity of Hyperbolos something really new or did he only continue political course of Cleon? What were the relations between Hyperbolos and the Athenian demos?
Tradition depicts Hyperbolos as a follower of Cleon's methods, but not as a follower of his successes. According to the contemporaries, Hyperbolos was distinguished for his "meanness". He was blamed for sneaking (sukophantia), Aristophanes and Thucydides called him mochtheros ("wretched", "worthless").
All that could not help to afflict the attitude of the Athenian demos towards Hyperbolos. Hyperbolos was the "eternal second", he was always in the shadow:
Cleon shaded him in the beginning of his political career, Alcibiades did the same towards the end. During the short period (since 422 till 420 or 419 B.C.), when Hyperbolos was the head of the radical wing of the Athenian politicians, his aggressive foreign policy did not receive support of majority of the Athenian citizens.
Hyperbolos held various posts and liturgies, but he never was a strategos. The Athenians gave less credence to him than to Cleon. His exile was a great surprise for Hyperbolos himself first of all. He fell a victim of a political collusion. This ostracism was condemned by the Athenian public opinion for two reasons: one of them was the "meanness" of Hyperbolos, the other was uselessness of that ostracism for the solution of the main political question of the time – to organize the Sicilian expedition or not.
The attitude of Hyperbolos to the Athenian demos and the rules of political struggle did not differ too much from the attitude of the politicians of the earlier period. Hyperbolos was a person noted for his non-aristocratic origin, rhetoric tricks and propaganda of the policy of expansion. Hyperbolos acted in a rather traditional way – through the court and the Assembly. But at the end of his life he had possibility (and even necessity) for direct appeal to the masses. The Athenian nautikos ochlos, so fearful for the oligarchs (Thuc. VIII.72), concentrated on Samos, where Hyperbolos lived in exile. We have no indications that he tried to affect public mood of the masses (that was later done by Alcibiades). Hyperbolos remained in the old limits of political struggle;
he turned out to be defenseless and was killed.
Hyperbolos, the last Athenian, who was exiled through the procedure of ostracism, happened to be the only person banished through ostracism and killed by an Athenian during his exile.
Still Hyperbolos did not receive sympathy from later tradition;
for the later generations his history was only an instructive example of "wrong" application of ostracism, upward flight and collapse of a "mean" person in politics. And a real "new politician" he was: he appealed to all demos, to the Assembly, trying to introduce new methods and new morals of political struggle into old limits. The result was deplorable for him personally, but the experience was taken into consideration:
ostracism disappeared from the political life and the Athenian demagogues of the 4th century B.C. began to act differently.
II. ROLE OF THE CROWD IN SOCIETY OF CLASSICAL ATHENS AND AFTERWORDS Ochlos from Aeschylus to Aristotle: History of the Word in the Context of History of Athenian Democracy The changed character of Athenian democracy in the last third of the fifth century BC has become a universally accepted statement in scientific literature the roots of which could be found in the pronouncements of ancient authors. As a rule, this assertion is accounted for by the rise of new leaders of non-aristocratic origin who played the leading role in the political life of Athens beginning with the Peloponnesian war. The advancement of the new politicians to the foreground became possible as a result of changes in the social psychology of the demos. In general this point of view should be considered right, but in our view it needs some corrections and corroboration not only by certain "selected" quotations from works of ancient authors. To get a complete and reliable picture we have made up our mind to analyze all the uses of the word ochlos in all the texts of the fifth–fourth centuries BC up to and including Aristotle. Studying this evolution is interesting not only as an end in itself, it makes it possible to clarify the views of ancient authors who used the word in different contexts, sometimes in different meanings.
I begin with Pindar. In his Fourth Pythian Ode he glorifies king Arcesilaus of Cyrene who “went anon and stood where all the crowd was thronging in the market place (en agora plethontos ochlou)” (Pyth. 4. 83 sqq.). And the crowd problem stood more seriously in this period of wider and wider citizen participation in public affairs.
Theater. The Athenian theater was not only a place of regular public gatherings, it was a place where people gatherings were spoken about. Aeschylus had some interest in politically important gatherings. For him “crowd” is usually a crowd of warriors (Suppl. 182;
Pers. 42, 53, etc.), enemies (Sept. 35), Scythians (Prometh.
417). Sophocles mentions “the wild crowd” (agrostes ochlos) in a fragment of Alexander (fr. 91 Nauck = fr. 94 Pearson) and in The Trachinians a great crowd (polus… ochlos) of the Trachinians gathered en mese Trachinion agora (Trachin. sq.), which, of course, alludes to the Assembly.
The theater of Euripides was, to paraphrase the famous Gettysburg Address of President Lincoln, for the people and of the people, and, naturally, “the people” here means “the Athenian citizens”. It is not surprising that his plays contain many mentions of people gatherings. Euripides often uses ochlos, athroizo and its derivatives, sometimes homilos, plethos, and other words for their designation.
Surely, these words do not primarily and necessarily designate non-organized crowds.
Ochlos sometimes describes a throng of servants (Hippol. 842;
Heracl. 976), warriors (Hecub. 521;
Rhes. 312 sq.), homilos one of sailors (nautan… homilon - Hec. 921), athroizo one of suppliants near Zeus’ altar (Heraclid. 122).
A crowd means danger, even it consists not of strangers. Any crowd, any gathering is a specific place of danger for women. Iolaus warns: “...for we think shame to let young girls Stand, a crowd’s gazing-stock, on altar-steps” (Heraclid. sq.). Helen is sure that “to pass mid throngs baseemeth maidens not (eis ochlon herpein parthenoisin ou kalon)” (Orest. 108). Antigone is even more decisive: “I shrink from throngs! (aidoumeth’ ochlon)” (Phoin. 1276). And, of course, we should remember the role which the throng of Argives played in Iphigenia’s fate.
But it is not a specific women’s problem. Even Agamemnon is afraid of a crowd, and Hippolytus is very proud that he cannot par’ ochlo mousikoteroi legein (Hippol. 988 sq.). This crowd is, of course, quite organized. Tyndareus is in a hurry eis ekkleton Argeion ochlon to learn about Orestes’ fate (Orest. 612;
cp. 119, 1280, etc.). The Argives gathered on the hill are expected to make a decision about Orestes’ fate (Orest. 871 sqq.;
884 sqq.). It is a clear allusion to the Ecclesia.
So for Euripides “a crowd” means first of all the demos, the citizen body;
only occasionally, when dealing with a non-polis context, it means unorganized gathering which can be dangerous for a concrete person, but absolutely not important in the political life.
Can Aristophanes, a real “insider” in everyday life of rank-and-file Athenian citizens, help us? His complaints about noisy urban life are well-known: that of Dicaeopolis comments in The Acharnians on the crowding around at the Pnyx and the noise in the market place, typical signs of the city – astu (Ach. 33 sqq.). The crowd (the throng of warriors) to the poet is comparable to locusts (Ach. 150). But everyone who expects to see descriptions of crowds in Aristophanes’ plays will be greatly surprised. Where are they? Let us take a closer look.
First of all, official gatherings: in The Frogs Aristophanes uses twice the expression “crowded people” (laon ochlos) to designate people celebrating a religious festival (676 sq., 219). And even more: when Dicaeopolis arranges his private Dionysia, where only he and his family participate, he is afraid of this ochlos (Ach.
257 sq.). Of course, this is a comic exaggeration, but obviously the Dionysia were very crowded. In The Ecclesiazusae Chremes describes the crowd of Athenian women gathered in the Pnyx, which he regards as a crowd of shoemakers (Eccl. sq.). Later Blepyrus again mentions the gathered in the Ecclesia (Eccl.
393). In The Knights the Sausage-seller describes to Demos the gathering of sellers in the Athenian agora (Eq. 850 sqq.). But this concerns everyday market activity and has no political importance.
There are two mentions of crowd activities out of public places. In The Wasps (1334) The Guest (Sympotes) threatens Phylocleon to come with all the throng of those aggrieved by him. The Guest means, that Philocleon’s private house would become the place of probable crowd gathering, but, of course, his threats were virtual enough. In the latest Aristophanes’ comedy, Plutus, we in fact can see crowd in an “unofficial” place. Cario describes Plutus coming to Chremylus’ house with a great crowd (ochlos), consisting of just men (hoi dikaioi), but poor before (Plut. 749 sq.).
In Aristophanes’ comedies the description of people’s gatherings occurs very rarely. It is not occasionaly that in The Birds the characters wonder at birds’ gathering as something unusual (Av. 291 sqq.;
305 sqq.). Only for the first sight it could seem strange that there are no pictures of any gathering in some of his plays, including Lysistrata. Aristophanes (and his characters) could have imagined a crowd, but only in Pnyx, or agora, i.e. in the “official” places.
But in his latest play the poet was able to imagine mass gatherings in a non official area. It is difficult to decide, whether it was reaction to some social or ideological changes, or something else. Aristophanes’ crowd is primarily an official gathering of citizens.
Historiography. Herodotus’ Histories are full of mass actions: his purpose was to describe “the great and the wonderful actions of the Greeks and the barbarians” (1.
intr.), and these erga definitely demanded the masses to participate. But this does not really mean that the Herodotus was in any way interested in spontaneous gatherings of inhabitants of the Greek cities. He describes a great throng (pollos homilos) of the Persian warriors plundering Sardis (1. 88. 3);
during the siege of Babylon Cyrus managed to divide the Gindes river into many trenches because he had a great throng of warriors at his disposal (1. 189. 4). However, it is very difficult to find any mention concerning crowd in the Greek cities. Only extraordinary situation, such as Xerxes’ invasion, results in appearing of such a crowd (e.g. homilos of the Phocians ascending the heights of Parnassus in order to escape the Persians – 8. 32. 1). But usually crowding is more usual for barbarians: e.g. the crowd of men surrounding the maidens during the ritual of “selling the bribes” in Illiria (1. 196. 1).
Herodotus’ lexica differs from those of posterior authors. He used ochlos only once, but in the meaning of “a trouble” (1. 86. 5), he used athroizo and its derivatives only four times, and his favorite word to designate any multitude was homilos ( times), e.g. all the multitude (homilos) of Persian allies fleeing away after the battle of Plataeae (9. 67;
cf. 9. 70. 1). But homilos for Herodotus was primarily a mob, not a crowd, and it becomes clear from his famous “dispute of the three Persians” where Megabyzus condemns the multitude (plethos): (3. 81. 1).
So, for Herodotus crowd, unlike mob, was neither a political problem, nor a sphere of his particular interest.
What was crowd for Thucydides? Thucydides was the historian of a war, and most part of the cases of mass gatherings in his work are those of military men, soldiers, or military ships. Ochlos for the historian usually means disordered military men (as homilos was);
wherever he uses the verb athroizo and its derivatives he deals with the military events.
(6. 30. 1 – 31. 1;
32. 1 2).
To compare with that of Thucydides, there are some differences in Xenophon’s attitude to crowd. Thucydides’ related lexica differs from Xenophon’s one, but that is not very important. Like Thucydides before him, Xenophon often uses hathroizo and hathroos to designate a compact mass or mass formation of infantry warriors (Hell. 5. 1. 7;
2. 38, etc.), chariots (Hell. 4. 1. 19), or combat ships (Hell. 1. 1. 13;
2. 1. 28;
4. 8. 6;
7. 1. 4). Unlike Thucydides, Xenophon did not use the word homilos at all. In Anabasis he uses ochlos mostly to designate an army or part of it. For Xenophon ochlos often is no more than terminus technicus which designates the non-combatants, the camp followers (Anab. 3. 3. 6;
3. 4. 26;
4. 3. 15, 26 sq.;
5. 4. 34;
cf. Hell. 6. 2. 23;
Peri Hippikes 2. 5). But he clearly distinguishes captive slaves from this mass (Anab. 6. 5.
3). Ochlos means the entire barbaric (not Greek!) army too (Anab. 2. 5. 9;
4. 1. 20);
in the Cyropaedia Xenophon uses this word to designate the armies of Cyrus’ enemies (Cyr. 5. 2. 35;
5. 4). Like for Thucydides, for Xenophon ochlos means an unorganized or disorganized army (Cyr. 4. 2. 6;
5. 2. 35;
6. 1. 26;
Anab. 2. 5. 9;
Kyneget. 17. 5).
There is only one exception, but a very specific one. The retreating Argive army was transformed into ochlos (Hell. 4. 4. 11: 392 B. C.), but the Spartan army retreated in the battle of Leuctra, as Xenophon notes, under the pressure of the ochlos of the Thebans (Hell. 6. 4. 14)! And this is the only place in Xenophon’s works when ochlos in a military context loses its technical meaning and becomes a very emotionally colored word. Surely, for Xenophon, who was a Laconophile, the Spartan army could not be an ochlos in any case.
Throng in the battle-field, “crowd-in-arms” was quite a usual thing. But what’s about non-military contexts, more interesting for us? And Hellenica gives us some interesting examples.
Callicratidas, a Spartan commander, gathered the assembly of the Milesians (Hell. 1. 6. 8): it is an example of an organized gathering in special, not ordinary, circumstances. Xenophon also mentions everyday people gatherings (ochlos) in Piraeus (Hell. 1. 3. 22), and some special public events. The crowd (mob?) (ochlos) gathered to meet Alcibiades (Hell. 1. 4. 13), or Theramenes and his embassy (Hell. 2.
2. 21). During the discussion on the case of generals, victors at Arginusae, the mob (ochlos, i.e. the majority of the Assembly) demanded to convict the generals immediately (Hell. 1. 7. 13).
Is it really possible to speak about any special social importance of crowds in Xenophon’s works? Maybe not, because for Xenohon the mob, not the crowd, was the important participant of the Athenian political life. Of course, there is a clear opposition in Memorabilia of being in crowds (en tois ochlois) and being in private companies (en tais idiais homiliais) (3. 7. 5). But Socrates’ ochloi are surely regular ones, and Socrates calls their representatives: “It is the fullers among them or the shoemakers or the carpenters or the smiths or the farmers or the merchants or those who barter in the agora and worry about what they can buy for less and sell for more whom you feel shame before? For it is from all of these that the assembly is composed” (3. 7. 6, transl. by Amy L. Bonnette). The mob (ochlos, demos) demanded equality, not meritocracy (Cyr. 2. 2. 21), and Xenophon surely opposed such a demand. For the historian ochlos in non-military contexts was usually not more than a synonym for demos, sometimes with a negative coloring.
For Xenophon’s ochlos there was only one “prohibited field”: the citizens of Sparta, the homoioi could not be named “the crowd” or “the mob” in any sense and in any case. The Spartan state for Xenophon, as the ideal state for Plato did not and should not have any social and political disorder. But the role of these “disorder making elements” (and they may be designated as ochlos, or plethos, or demos) was obvious for Athens, in any case, from Xenophon’s point of view. But he did not distinguish the crowd activities from that of the mob and had the same attitude to both of them.
In any case Xenophon was the first Greek historian who paid attention to the civil unorganized mass gatherings. Of course, they were not very important for him, it was just a new detail of the Athenian political landscape. It is interesting that Piraeus was a place for such a type of gatherings. But Piraeus was not the center of the Athenian political life, and that’s why it attracted ancient author’s attention very rarely, only in the extraordinary cases.
Let us check the usage of the word ochlos, on the one hand, and the notion crowd, on the other, in the treatise How to survive under siege of Aeneas the Tactician, an author from Arcadia (a rare example of a non-Athenian author!) of the mid-fourth century B. C. For Aeneas ochlos is an unorganized (31. 27) or not the best part of the army (1, 9). In non-military contexts ochlos in Aeneas’ work usually means population in general (22. 23), plethos designates the mass of citizens (14. 1).
Aeneas Tacticus uses ochlos to designate people’s gatherings too, and it is important that he mentions organized gatherings: sport contests (torch-races, horse races, etc.), mass religious ceremonies (17. 1, 6). One may expect that Aeneas would be afraid of crowd activities. But being a general he was not afraid of any disturbances in the city. The only occasion when he describes spontaneous crowd activities is the defense of Sparta against the Thebans by self-organized groups of the Spartans (2. 2).
) to Aristotle uses the word ochlos rather often (eleven times – in the Politics, three – in the Rhetoric). Absence of this word in the Athenaion politeia is quite reasonable: the purpose of the Athenaion politeia was to describe the realities of Athenian political history and state order, and its audience should be wide enough.
That’s why Aristotle prefers to use more neutral words – plethos, hoi polloi.
In the Rhetoric the philosopher uses the word ochlos quite in Platonic sense:
Aristotle notes that an illiterate ochlos can comprehend rather simple methods of influence better than educated one does, using the citation of Euripides (par’ ochlo mousikoteros legein: Hippol. 989): “It is this that makes the ignorant more persuasive than the educated in the presence of crowds;
as the poets say, “the ignorant are more skilled in speaking before a mob” (Rhet. 1395 b 28).
In the Politics Aristotle often uses ochlos as a social term, e.g. to designate a crowd of women and servants (1265 a 17), citizens of non-aristocratic origin in the aristocratic state (1303 b 28 sqq.), the “worst” citizens who intended to take a share in the property of convicts (1230 a 10). Aristotle warns against predomination of the “market crowd” (agoraios ochlos) over the majority of citizens (plethos) who live far from the political center of the community (1319 a 37). According to his opinion, the nautikos ochlos should not get the right of citizenship (1327 b 37).
But sometimes Aristotle uses both ochlos and plethos to designate the entire population (Pol. 1278 a 32), or the entire citizen body (Pol. 1286 a 31, 1311 a 13).
Such usage is typical for Plato too, but, unlike Plato, Aristotle’s expressions have no negative connotations. On the contrary, Aristotle noted that “for this reason (to give judgments) in many cases a crowd (ochlos) judges better than any single person” (Pol. 1286 a 31 sq., transl. by H. Rackham). And even more, he designates not only his contemporaries, but also the citizens of the patrios politeia as ochlos (Pol. a).
Aristotle regards ochlos (crowd) as a social reality of both contemporary epoch and even of the past. In the works of Aristotle ochlos is not so emotionally coloured and does not have such a negative connotation as it does in Plato and Isocrates. For Aristotle the citizens of pre-Solonic Athens (patrios politeia) are also ochlos. So ochlos became a neutral 'scientific' term denoting mostly the mob:
agoraios ochlos (Pol. 1319 a 37), nautikos ochlos (Pol. 1327 b 37). Aristotle and after him all the Peripatetics used the word ochlos as a neutral term designating the lower strata of the citizens as well as whole civic community. So, in their writings ochlos lost ideological coloring and acquired social characteristics. But Aristotle regarded it as the term for the part of city population. Unorganized gatherings were of no interest for Aristotle, were not discussed in his sociology, and we can imagine the only reason for it: crowd activities were very rare and had no importance for the Greek political life in that period and before it.
To dum up, according to the popular belief ochlos belonged to the concepts created by the supporters of aristocracy (oligarchy) to denote the poorest strata of the population hostile to it. However, this opinion seems to us somewhat one-sided.
Ochlos surfaces for the first time during the period of active word coining and appearance of new concepts in the first half of the fifth century BC. At first it was used on a pair with homilos well-known since Homeric times which also had the meaning of "mob", "unorganized gathering". But homilos (as well as the verb homilein) had the primary meaning of "connection with something, contact, affinity", whereas ochlos (as well as the verb ochlein) belongs to a completely different semantic group ("anxiety, difficulty, inconvenience"). The difference came to light gradually: both Aeschylus and Sophocles (and the archaist Thucydides) used them interchangeably, and Herodotus preferred the word homilos.
The great change occurred in the Athenian theatre. Euripides and Aristophanes often used ochlos, after them homilos practically went out of use. It was not accidental: ochlos denoted new reality, the reality of the socio-political life of Athens of the late 5th century B.C., where the mob consisted not only of non-citizens – women, metics, slaves, but also of citizens influenced by demagogues. The stability of the political structure of Athens of the 5th century was a thing of the past, "the mob" (i.e. ordinary citizens) began to take an active part in political life supporting their leaders – demagogues and causing concern among the supporters of the old order.
Euripides and Aristophanes who shared the problems of their contemporaries and gave the green light to the new concept could not but react to this. Particularly prominent is the role of Euripides. It is not accidental that Aristotle quoted a line from his "Hippolytos". Aristophanes, an "insider" for the Athenian audience did not mince words and called his fellow-citizens a mob.
Opponents of democracy began to widely use the notion of unrestrained mob (ochlos) of Athenian citizens after the Peloponnesian war, in philosophical and rhetorical schools of Plato and Isocrates. To them the word often had an unequivocally negative connotation and they resorted to it in anti-democratic propaganda. The arguments of both thinkers are surprisingly similar: the mob should be obedient, it should not take an active part in political life. Isocrates and Plato equated ochlos with the demos of their time (these notions are synonymous for them), strikingly different from the body of the citizens of the good old times, patrios politeia. It is only here, in the rhetorical and philosophical schools of the fourth century that the word ochlos acquires a clear and unambiguous negative anti democratic connotation, becomes one of the key words of the vocabulary of the oligarchy, the direct, though belated, heir of which became ochlokratia (ochlocracy) first appearing in Polybius. In works by Isocrates and Plato condemnation of the mob turns into a platitude, topos reproduced in different places. It is not an emotional statement, but a logical construction designed to buttress ideological arguments.
However, despite a considerable impact of the ideas of Plato and Isocrates, their audience should not be exaggerated. Both thinkers addressed the narrow circle of their like-minded listeners. Speaking at the Assembly (or composing speeches for appearances in court) orators regardless of their political convictions could not take the liberty of demonstrating arrogant attitude towards their audiences. Both Demosthenes and Aeschines accused each other that their political opponent perceived the Athenian citizens as ochlos. It is natural that speakers, sensitive to the mood of the Ecclesia and dicasts, while criticizing actions and moods of the demos, could not overstep the line and lose the support of their audience.
In other sources of the middle and the end of the fourth century (Aeneas Tacticus, Aristotle) ochlos is not so emotionally colored and does not have such a negative connotation as in Plato and Isocrates. (Xenophon's position is intermediate).
For Aristotle the citizens of pre-Solonic Athens were also ochlos. Demos and democracy were rather odious for the opponents of democracy. Probably that is why the idea of ochlocracy appeared so late.
Thus, the mere appearance and extended use of the word ochlos testified to the emergence (in Athenian society, at any rate) of a new problem, the problem of the active participation of the body of the citizens in the political life of the polis.
Aristocrats – were replaced by demagogues, and the ordinary citizens felt that the political leaders depended on them to a greater extent than before. The meek demos of Periclean and pre-Periclean Athens turned into the unruly ochlos of the period of the decline of Athenian greatness. The competence of its new balance of forces secured the stability of the Athenian political system for several more decades.
Polybius and Titus Livius:
ochlos and its Roman parallels The aim of the chapter is to compare the use of the words denoting the mob, multitude of people (ochlos, vulgus, etc.) in the works by Polybius and Titus Livius.
Polybius is usually considered the "discoverer" of the concept of ochlocracy which occurs for the first time in his work. However the Greek historian used the term ochlokratia only three times in the sixth "methodological" book of his work devoted to the exposition of the theory of the development and decline of a state. He regarded ochlocracy as the final stage of the degradation cycle of a state system. He borrowed the concept from the philosophic (primarily, peripathetic) tradition. Similar views were expressed in the so-called "epitome of Areius Didimus" (Stob. II.7.26). In our judgment when considering the attitude of Polybius to the mob we should not be guided by these theoretical tenets, which he seldom used to describe specific historical events.
In the overwhelming majority of cases Polybius uses ochlos without a derogatory connotation. Ochlos means the people's assembly of the Achaean league (e.g. Polyb. XXIII.16.11;
7.4) and the troops (I.15.4;
XI.12.2 etc.), including the citizens' militia (IV.7.6;
It is worthy of note that Polybius as well as other authors of the Hellenistic period (but contrary to authors of the 5th – 4th centuries B.C.) uses ochlos, ochloi, plethos, plethe, hoi polloi as synonyms or almost as synonyms. Thus describing the transition of democracy to cheirokratia the historian uses plethos, plethe, and hoi polloi (VI. 9. 6–8). Narrating the story of Agathocle's rise and death, Polybius calls the Alexandria mob hoi polloi (XV.27.1), plethos (XV.27.3;
32.11), plethe (XV.33.5), ochloi (XV.33.9). Participants in the assembly of the Achaean league incited against Rome by demagogue Critolaos are described as plethos (XXXVIII.12.5), plethe (XXXVIII.12.2), hoi polloi (XXXVIII.12.4), ochloi (XXXVIII.12.10;
Thus ochlos (or to be more exact, ochloi) for Polybius is the normal state of the people, "broad masses". In this respect Polybius continues the tradition of Aristotle who unlike his predecessors (Plato and Isocrates) perceived ochlos as a given fact. The only difference is that in the course of 200 years Aristotle's ochlos became Polybius's ochloi. Thus one should not attach too much importance to the "discovery" of ochlocracy by Polybius, for essentially it is the same extreme (radical) democracy. The historian remained in the mainstream of the peripatetic tradition.
Titus Livius who borrowed quite a few things from Polybius did not adopt his social lexis. His turba, as a rule, denotes instability, changeabilily, turbulence inherent in the masses of the people, vulgus characterizes first of all the social distance between humilliores and the people vested with power (senators, etc.);
vulgus usually has no derogatory connotation, since it denotes unshakable reality which subsequently could have been reflected in legal texts. However the appearance of the word vulgus in the 2nd century B.C. testifies to a new social division taking shape in Roman society instead of the almost meaningless archaic division into patricians and plebeians.
Vulgus and Turba: Mob in Classical Rome The aim of the chapter is to consider the attitude of the Roman authors of the classical period towards the mob, their use of the words vulgus and turba. There is a common opinion about the pejorative attitude of the Roman authors towards vulgus, but this conclusion is based on the analysis of individual authors, rather than on the corpus of texts.
The word vulgus first appears in the works of the authors of the 2nd c. B.C. as the definition of common people and partly replaces plebs. For the first Roman comedy writers vulgus is an unfamiliar and seldom used word, denoting something where in public opinion originates without a pejorative connotation. Turba is more familiar to them, it denotes commotion, disorder, concentration of people (with sometimes a pejorative connotation). As long as the social structure of Rome did not experience upheavals, the attitude towards vulgus was disdainfully neutral. The situation changed with the advent of the epoch of civil wars when the lower strata of Roman citizens began to take an active part in the political struggle. The danger of losing power was the reason for the hatred of the “old” boni, defenders of the Roman oligarchy, to vulgus. For Sallustius and Catullus (and to a lesser extent for Accius and Cicero) the opposition of vulgus and boni (potentes) became a rhetorical cliche. Such an opposition was typical only of that social milieu, and in the works of the other authors of the 1st c. B.C. vulgus is treated quite neutrally. Unlike Sallustius, Caesar used vulgus, with one exception, neutrally. It is not surprising: Caesar appealed to this vulgus and sought to win its sympathies.
With the establishment of the emperor’s power, vulgus represented by the Roman plebs urbana acquired a stable place in society and only some excesses, which aroused indignation on the part of some authors, made them use the word turba. We can find a completely neutral attitude towards vulgus in the works of Seneca and even of Petronius. Only Tacitus attempting to restore the lost idyll of the senate republic denounces vulgus catered to by the emperors. But it was the final accord of the senate tradition, a peculiar “rhetorical nostalgia”. His contemporaries, Pliny the Younger and Suetonius, were far more impartial. We can see again the opposition of two traditions – a rhetorically expressed contempt for the mob on the part of the educated senate elite and a bureaucratically calm (one can say businesslike) attitude towards the relationship between those who had power and the low strata (first of all, plebs urbana).
In Digestae vulgus has no pejorative connotation;
this well-behaved, if impoverished, group can be made happy with insignificant hand-outs;
it is the riotous and looting turba that should be resolutely rebuffed.
Vulgus is not a social term. Nor is it terminus technicus. In the 1st c. B.C. vulgus became a swearword of the part of the Roman elite trying to put up a rhetorical barrier between “us, well-educated, holding power” and the main population (we are different, we are not vulgus). The new power, however, considered vulgus among its supporters, and it is not accidental that not only Caesar, and loyal to the new power Pliny the Younger and Suetonius, but also Lucan, a senate oppositionist, did not seek to denounce “the ignorant mob”. Name of the famous Vulgata (the Latin translation of the Bible) has a lot in common with the Lucilius’ choire, but not with the Sallustius Horace riff-raff.
It is impossible to imagine this kind of attitude to ochlos in Greece. Ochlos is degenerating but full-powered demos, whereas vulgus in Rome initially has no real power. The existence of vulgus is a specific feature of Rome, and this fact is reflected in the works of Roman authors.
The Role of Crowd Activities in the Political Life of Ancient Greece The author makes an attempt to find any traces of crowd activities in the political life of pre-Hellenistic Greece analysing some cases of alleged unorganised mass activities (Athenian revolt against Cleomenes and Isagoras in 508/7 B. C., Alcibiades’ return to Piraeus and the trial over the Arginusae victors during the Peloponnesian war, skytalismos in Argos in 370 B. C., and some others). The author compares crowd actions in classical Greece with that in Hellenisctic Egypt (the uprising of masses in Alexandria against Agathocles in 204/3 B. C.) to show the difference in people’s conduct.
First, it is necessary to define my field clearly. What does the word “crowd” mean? However, for sociologists it is “an incidental aggregation, held together by a relatively extrinsic and temporary bond,” for psychologists it is “a group whose cooperation is relatively occasional and temporary, as opposed to that which is either instinctively or reflectively determined.” Even more, “a crowd whose performances are particularly capricious and violent is called a mob” (Dictionary of Philosophy and Psychology). As for social historians and classicists, the picture is quite different.
They usually substitute the notion “crowd” for the notion “masses”. For historical study, “crowd” may be defined as “group of persons with common traditions intentionally acting together outside existing channels to achieve one or more specifically defined goals” (D. Herder).
It is very difficult to form a realistic view of the notion “crowd” concerning the reality of classical Greece, but I’ll try to show its place in Greek social and political history, with two important limitations. First, my analysis will cover primarily the classical period, i.e. the fifth and fourth centuries BC. Second, I will deal mostly with so-called “political crowds”, i.e., people gatherings which influenced the political life of the ancient Greek cities. So, when Plato describes beautiful boys and a crowd of people following behind them, this case will interest me only if it has political consequences.
When we turn to the study of ancient Greek history of the archaic and classical periods we find that the crowd (not the masses!) has been a neglected phenomenon.
Only a few scholars paid any attention to crowd actions in that historical period (Virginia Hunter, Josiah Ober).
How is it possible to explain such a lack of scholarly interest? In my view, there are two reasons. First, this phenomenon was considered less important in comparison with well organized and very effectively functioning city institutions.
However, the study of the role of crowds in the political life of ancient Greece may help to emphasize a high level of organization in the political sphere in ancient Greece.
There is, however, another reason for the lack of such studies, namely the nature of our sources. The pioneers in studying crowd behavior in historical contexts were the students of 18 19th century Europe, such as Gustave Le Bon or George Rude. They used as their sources police archives, newspapers etc., i.e., materials which can be called "inside sources". But the classicists have at their disposal mostly the texts of ancient authors. Inscriptions and papyri cannot help us, because they deal with a relatively late period (e.g., the first mention of ochlos in inscriptions dates to the end of the second century BC). So it is mostly "outside sources" the scholars have to rely upon, and these were not very friendly to the crowd.
There are two obvious ways to look for appearances of crowds in ancient texts: first, to pick out all the words that are connected with crowds, and to study their usage. Second, to pull out of the context all the situations which indicate any trace of crowd activity or at least crowd existence.
My earlier studies were devoted to the terminology of the crowd, first of all to ochlos, which is perhaps the 'key-word' for 'crowd studies'. Participation of the citizen masses in political life was obviously connected with the development of democracy, and the process lets its clear mark in the appearance of the word ochlos, to replace homilos. This was not accident. Greek society and Greek authors did need a new word to indicate a new reality.
According to common belief, ochlos belonged to the concepts created by the supporters of aristocracy (oligarchy) to denote the poorest strata of the population hostile to aristocracy. However, this opinion seems to me somewhat one-sided.
Ochlos surfaces for the first time during a period of the first half of the fifth century BC which was active in word coining and appearance of new concepts. At first it was used on a par with homilos, well-known since Homeric times, which also had the meaning of "crowd", "unorganized gathering". But homilos had the primary meaning of "connection with something, contact, affinity", whereas ochlos belongs to a completely different semantic group ("anxiety, difficulty, inconvenience"). The difference came to light gradually: Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Thucydides used the two words interchangeably, and Herodotus preferred the word homilos.
Of course, the appearance of the word ochlos reflects (in some way) realities of social life in fifth century Athens. But used frequently by the Greek authors in the meaning of "crowd", it can also mean (and did in fact very often mean) the mob, the low strata of citizens, or non-citizens (women, metoikoi, slaves), i.e., it assumed social or situational characteristics. And plethos, hoi polloi and even demos may acquire the same meanings.
If there is no word in ancient Greek to designate the crowd separately from the mob, maybe there is a word for describe crowd action? Indeed, there is such a word, the verb athroizo (Attic hathroizo) and the corresponding adjective, athroos (Attic hathroos) and other derivatives. So, first of all I’ll examine the usage of these words (not terms!), and then discuss some situations in which unorganized mass gatherings were involved.
Crowd cases. So, we cannot regard ochlos as a clear sign of crowd. In most cases ochlos designates either the mob, or even the people.
I’ll try to analyze the alleged cases of crowd activities in pre-Hellenistic Greece. My selection may not be comprehensive, but nevertheless the small number of the cases in which the crowd is mentioned in our sources already speaks for itself.
It is necessary to note that an unorganized mass gathering was an extremely rare phenomenon for archaic Greece, and thus it would be reasonable to turn to the examination of assemblies. The assemblies were quite usual social phenomenon in Homeric time. They could have been summoned by the king or by the nobles and did not meet regularly (as in Ithaca – Od. 2. 26–27). Agora (town-square or meeting place) already existed in that period.
The assemblies consisted of citizens-warriors, but were not over-organized.
The nobility dominated there as we can see in the case of Thersites. Homeric Thersites insults Agamemnon at the assembly of warriors. An episode with Thersites in the "Iliad" (2, 211–277) is known enough. Thersites is a representative of the mass of warriors (plethus – 2. 143, 278, demos – 2. 198). But there is no trace of any type of crowd action in this case as well. Nobody supports Thersites, and his protest is only a verbal act, nothing more.
As for the archaic period, it’s a pity that we have (as usual!) only Athenian material at our disposal. The earliest case available is about the Cylon’s plot, in suppression of which the Athenian demos took its part. Indeed, as Thucydides reports (1. 126. 7), “all together” (pandemei) they besieged Cylon and his accomplices on the Acropolis. But the usage of this term doesn’t necessarily mean spontaneous and non arranged activity of the demos. For example, Thucidides uses the same very term pandemei while reporting about departing of all the Spartan troops, which can hardly be described as badly arranged, or about mass participation of the Athenians in the construction of “The Long Walls” (1. 90. 3), etc. When Cylon occupied the Acropolis in 636 or 632 B. C., there was nothing like general rising, and the demos supported Megacles, the archon (Hdt 5. 71;
Thuc. 1. 126–127). It is not by chance that we have such a strong tradition about Alcmaeonids’ filth. The Alcmaeonids were the leaders, but not the leaders of a revolt, the leaders of a protest of the Athenians against an attempt to seize the tyrannical power. Here we can see the mobilization of those Athenians who don’t support the tyranny rather than spontaneous activity of the people. The crowd as it was has not yet emerged.
Athenian revolt in 508/7 B. C. The Athenian democracy began with resistance of the Athenians to Cleomenes and Isagoras in 508/7 B. C. Revolt of the Athenians against Cleomenes and Isagoras in 508/7 B. C. could be regarded as a crowd action with more reasons. This event has brought to life a lot of interpretations and comments, but our interest lies in a very narrow field, i.e. in the level of organization of this action. Let us check our sources from this particular point of view, starting from Herodotus.
“...Having come he (Cleomenes) banished seven hundred Athenian households named for him by Isagoras, to take away the curse. Having so done he next essayed to dissolve the Council, entrusting the offices of governance to Isagoras’ faction. But the Council resisted him and would not consent;
whereupon Cleomenes and Isagoras and his partisans seized the acropolis. The rest of the Athenians united (Athenaion hoi loipoi ta auta phronesantes) and besieged them for two days;
and on the third they departed out of the country on the treaty, as many of them as were Lacedaemonians” (Hdt. 5. 72, transl. by A.D. Godley).
Aristophanes’ Lysistrata is not of great interest for our case. Chorus of the Athenian men remembers “the old golden days”, when Cleomenes “departed surrendering his arms to me” (Lys. 277, transl. by H. Sommerstein).
Aristotle’s account is based on that of Herodotus, but the author of the Athenaion politeia adds some more details. “Cleisthenes secretly withdrew, and Cleomenes with a few troops proceeded to expel as accursed seven hundred Athenian households;
and having accomplished this he tried to put down the Council and set up Isagoras and three hundred of his friends with him in sovereign power over the state.
But the Council resisted and the multitude banded together (tes de boules antistases kai sunathroisthentos tou plethos), so the forces of Cleomenes and Isagoras took refuge in the Acropolis, and the people (demos) invested it and laid siege to it for two days. On the third day they let Cleomenes and his comrades go away under a truce, and sent for Cleisthenes and the other exiles to go back” (Ath. pol. 20. 3, transl. by H.
Josiah Ober (“The Athenian Revolution”) describes ‘the Cleisthenic revolution’ as follows: “The Athenian siege of the Acropolis in 508/7 is best understood as a riot – a violent and more or less spontaneous uprising by a large number of Athenian citizens”. And further: “The ‘constitution of Cleisthenes’ channeled the energy of the demos’ self-defining riot into a stable and workable form of government”.Ober makes a comparison, obvious for him, with the mass acting during the French revolution, “in this case, by rioting and besieging the Bastille”.
Ober points to usage of the passive participle of the verb sunathroizo in Athenaion politeia 20. 3. Analyzing Athenians’ struggle against Cleomenes and Isagoras in 508/7, he translates “the boule resisted and the mob gathered itself together (sunathroisthentos tou plethous)”.This translation presupposes real crowd activities, even riots. Ober is obviously right asserting that passive participle sunathroistheis has a reflexive rather than a passive meaning, but in his translation the situation seems to be more “revolution-like” than Aristotle would like to tell us about. In H. Ruckham’s translation in the Loeb series the situation is even more dramatized: “But the Council resisted and the multitude banded together”. But Aristotle uses the participle sunathroistheis in Athenaion politeia twice more, describing assembling of the Council in the course of Ephialtes’ reforms (25. 4), and gathering the force from the city in agora during the struggle against “The Thirty” (38. 1). In all three cases we can see public gatherings in extraordinary situations, but not riots.
One should also take into account an extremely low urbanization level in Athens of that period, which doesn’t suppose large masses of citizens. It would be more justified to speak about a kind of mobilization of citizens-warriors in order to protect the polis’ autonomy.
But, on the other hand, was the Athenian demos ready enough to act independently and simultaneously? Only six years before this revolt Hipparchus was killed. Thucydides in the tyrannycide-excursus describes that after killing Hipparchus “Aristogiton escaped the guards at the moment, through the crowd running up, but was afterwards taken and executed” (Thuc. 6. 57. 4, transl. by R. Crowley, ed. by R.
Strassler). This crowd (ochlos) consisted of the citizens, taking part in Panathenaic procession (6. 57. 2) on the Panathenaic way in the northern part of the Athenian agora. This gathering was obviously an organized one (the religious procession);
that's why it was rather easy for Hippias to take control over the situation after killing of Hipparchus (6. 58. 1–2). This case is really a unique one: the organized gathering did not become disorganized even in this extraordinary situation. So it is very difficult to believe that social psychology of the Athenian demos changed so drastically during this short period of time. So the revolt against Cleomenes and Isagoras must have had its leader or leaders.
Spontaneous actions of the Athenian citizens against Cylon and Isagoras were something like self-mobilization of the citizen army. I am not sure whether the level of democratic consciousness of the Athenians of the archaic period was high enough to make the citizens rise against the people violating legal decisions, but I am sure of the level of their “hoplite” consciousness in purpose to defend their city.
Athens during the Peloponnesian war. The Peloponnesian war was a real proof test for city institutions of many Greek poleis. But I could find no sure trace of crowd activities, city riots and so on.
an Meanwhile it is necessary to study the cases of Thucydides’ mention of crowd gatherings and crowd activities in non-military context. An interesting example is the Pericles' speech who “advanced from the sepulcher to an elevated platform in order to be heard by as many of the crowd as possible” (2. 34. 8). This crowd (homilos) consisted of citizens, but not of citizens alone. Pericles addressed to “the whole assemblage (panta homilon), whether citizens or foreigners” (2. 36. 4). The purpose was state funeral procession, and the Kerameikos was its location. It was obviously an organized gathering too (elevated platform is the sign of special preparations), but maybe not over-organized: not only citizens and their families, but metoikoi and foreigners were allowed to participate in this procession.
Almost in the same words we can characterize the departure of the Sicilian expedition (6. 30–32), when the whole population of the city (ho allos homilos hapas – 6. 30. 2) came to Piraeus to say farewell to the sailors and warriors. The crowd consisted of the Athenians, foreigners and the eunoi of the Athenians (6. 32. 2).
The shores of the harbor of Piraeus was the place of this gathering. The ceremony was a religious one and obviously was organized by the state (6. 32. 1), but the crowd was rather self-organized, because it was the initiative of people to come.
The events of the oligarchic coup d’etat of 411 are also of interest for examination of the political activities of the crowd. After Phrynichus had been killed, and the power of oligarchs had become unstable, there gathered crowds of hoplites in Piraeus in order to act against the oligarchs (8. 92. 5–6). Crowd activities began in Athens too (8. 92. 7–8). But it is very characteristic that these crowd activities were quickly transformed into an official people gathering – assembly in the theatre of Dionysus in Piraeus (8. 93. 1 and 3). The same, as a matter of principle, phenomenon we can see in Aristophanes’ Lysistrata: the women’s activity is transformed into a kind of a self-organized assembly.
Xenophon’s Hellenica gives us some more interesting cases. A Theban Coiratadas, the prisoner-of-war, while disembarking at Piraeus, “slipped away in the crowd (ochlos) and made his escape to Decelea” (Hell. 1. 3. 22, transl. by C. L.
Brownson). It is a very rare mention of often, if not everyday, Piraeus crowds. Piraeus was a great port, and, of course, there was a permanent circulation of port workers, ships’ crews and so on. In the same year (408/7) the mob (ochlos) of Piraeus and the city gathered to meet Alcibiades (Hell. 1. 4. 13). This was, of course, a real mass gathering. The question is, whether it was organized or not. Alcibiades through his friends prepared public opinion and arrived to Piraeus just on the day of Plyntheria, a popular Athenian religious festival (Hell. 1. 4. 12). It was an organized gathering, but organized in favor of one person, the politician, who could transfer official people gathering (religious ceremony) to that of aimed to support his plans.
The next example is the Arginusae trial. The enemies of the strategoi, of whom Theramenes was the first, used the religious festival Apaturia for their propaganda (here we may draw a parallel with Alcibiades arrival to Athens). But due to the specific features of this festival (the remembering of the dead relatives) there could have been only small gatherings of the relatives.
It would be wrong to imagine the people’s Assembly just like an exalted crowd. The Assembly had its reasons to be furious: the number of the Athenian citizens lost in the battle was too substantial even compared with the casualties of the Sicilian catastrophe. Of course, there is no precise data concerning the casualties, although both Xenophon and Diodorus report about 25 ships lost by the Athenians (Xen. Hell. 1. 6. 34;
Diod. 13. 100. 3–4). As to the opinion of Barry Strauss, total Athenian casualties in this battle were about 3300 men (in comparison with about 7000 in Sicily). Robert Buck suggests that up to 5000 Athenian lives were lost.
Anyway, the Assembly had serious reasons to blame the generals. Thus the trial of the strategoi shouldn’t be regarded as an example of the crowd’s influence over the Athenian political life.
A civil crowd appears in Hellenica when Xenophon describes the return of Theramenes’ embassy to Athens in 405 BC “And as they were entering the city, a great crowd gathered around them (ochlos periecheito polus)” (2. 2. 21). The situation was critical in Athens, and people were dying of famine: that was the reason, why did the crowd meet the ambassadors near the gates or in the agora. But it is very important, that there is no mention of any crowd action. On the contrary, only “on the next day the ambassadors reported to the Assembly the terms on which the Lacedaemonians offered to make peace” (2. 2. 22). The Assembly should and did dominate over any possible unorganized political gathering in Athens.
It is interesting to compare Thucydides’ and Xenophon’s attitudes to the crowd with that of his contemporary, Andocides. The orator did not use ochlos at all, did not describe any crowd activity, and I could find the only place in Andocides’ corpus concerning this problem, but an interesting one.
The trial of Andocides on impiety took place in 400 B. C., but in his successful speech On the Mysteries Andocides described the events of 415 BC, when he had been imprisoned because of his real or alleged involvement in the mutilation of herms and the profanation of the mysteries. Surely, Andocides tried to retell these events in his own favor, but his audience knew the real conditions of public Athenian life;
that’s why Andocides’ picture should be realistic in this particular field.
Andocides wrote that Diocleides had brought an impeachment before the Council after he had seen “a large number of men going down from the Odeum into the orchestra” by the gateway to the theater of Dionysus. “He saw in total about three hundred men, but standing in groups of fifteen or twenty” (Andoc. 1. 38, transl. by M. Edwards).
Was it a real crowd? No. We can see only a picture (real or not very real, it doesn’t matter in this context) of a conspiracy preparations. But it is of great importance that both the orator and his audience could imagine the area of the theater of Dionysus as the exact place for mass gatherings. There were really no places for mass gatherings in Athens, but the areas of official city institutions. These places can be used illegally only at night, as happened in this case.
All that points to the absence of any kind of political influence of the crowd in Athens even at the very end of the Peloponnesian War – in this hardest time for the city institutions. The power of organization was stronger than the disorganizing tendencies even in this period.
Absence of real crowd activities in Athens during the Peloponnesian War is crucial for us. It means that crowd activities were not real means in the political struggle.
demos Conclusions. May we suppose a crowd as a social phenomenon, and crowd activities to have any importance in Greek political life in pre-Hellenistic period? The answer is clear: no. But what are the reasons for this? One may easily point out the demography or the settlement patterns of the Greeks in classical period. Surely, ancient Greek cities, poleis, were rather small. There were very few places in ancient Greek cities where crowd activities could take place: agora, the theater, and maybe no more. Greek polis had no place for crowd activities: both agora and acropolis were the places for organized religious and civic processions (events, festivals). All these places were controlled by the city authorities, and unofficial gatherings may have occurred there only at night (as Andocides saw or imagined). There are no traces of crowd activities during the Olympic, Nemean, or Panathenaean Games in the classical period too.
The main reason, however, is that it was extremely difficult to abuse polis institutions by this way. It seems to me that the Greek democracy was the society of a slightly organized civil crowd, and the critics of democracy were rather just. The psychological necessity for crowd activities could canalize in the assembly meetings, and in extraordinary situation such meetings may have transferred (mostly in the eyes of the opponents of democracy) into something like crowd gatherings as we can see in the case of the generals, victors of Arginusae, trial.
There were some changes at the end of the fifth – beginning of the fourth centuries BC. The signs of these changes are the appearance of a few, but really unorganized public gatherings in our sources, and the attempt of Alcibiades even to organize public gathering out of official framework. But there were only signs, and they did not influence the political life of ancient Greek cities. Even nautikos ochlos, so strong in Athens, was no more than the part of the Athenian population, and there were no attempts to use its resources for crowd activities. The demagogues were the leaders of the demos not only by name;
they continued to use polis institutional framework. These framework should be destroyed or seriously damaged to allow the crowd activities to take place.
The crowd had much more importance in the sphere of ideology. Opponents of democracy in the philosophical and rhetorical schools of Plato and Isocrates began to use the notion ochlos widely in the meaning of unrestrained crowd of Athenian citizens after the Peloponnesian war. It is only here, in the rhetorical and philosophical schools of the fourth century that the word ochlos, acquires a clear and unambiguous negative anti-democratic connotation, becomes one of the key words of the vocabulary of oligarchy. But ochlos, for Plato and Isocrates was mostly the mob;
they did not use any example of crowd activities (but only organized political gatherings, such as Ecclesia, courts, etc.) in their works. Moreover, the crowd was for them mainly an ideological issue, necessary for their anti-democratic arguments, but not a real danger. There is no evidence to prove any serious involvement of the crowd into the political life of the Greek cities in the archaic and classical periods.
So there were no direct influence of crowd actions upon political life in archaic and classical Greece. The danger of crowd activities had more importance for ideology. The crowd for the opponents of democracy (Plato, Isocrates) was an ideological image, and not a real danger.
III. Political Onomastics of Classical Athens Do personal names of the Athenian citizens give any ground for political or ideological connotations? If so, is it possible, based on the analysis of personal names, to add a new page to the study of political ideas of the Athenian democracy?
Of course, there were, there are and there will be a lot of attempts to consider passages of ancient authors “that illustrate certain fundamental doctrines of Athenian democratic thought” (R. Seager). And, of course, problems of prejustice of the most of the classical authors against Athenian democracy, on the one hand, and the absense of democratically programmatic texts still remain. So, on my mind, any additional information on democratic ideology or on the spread of democratic ideas in classical Athens would not be unnecessary. E.g. John Boardman made an attempt to reconstruct the ideology of early tyranny based on vase painting. To my mind, our picture of the society of classical Athens will not be complete without study of personal names and tradition of name-giving.
In this chapter I’ll try to use the data of historical onomastics (anthroponymics) to reveal influence of democratic ideas on society of classical Athens. I realize that my study is rather marginal and will only try to add an untraditional source (i.e. personal names) to investigations in this particular field.
I am not sure that we may use personal names as a source of information of political ideas for any society. But personal names of classical Athens give us such an opportunity for some reasons. First, ancient Greek personal names are clearly those of Indo-European (as Sanscrit or ancient Slavonic). There were some Greek theophoric names or those, based on nick-names. But most of them are composite names consisted of two stems with a clearly positive meaning. They usually cannot be translated directly, but should remain clearly positive associations. Second, onomasticon of every society is rather traditional one and depends on family preferences. But in periods of revolutionary changes fachion for names may change drastically, as we can see in the periods of Christianization of Roman Empire, French and Russian revolutions.
I am not sure if we may use a term “Athenian revolution” as Josh Ober did, but a period after Cleisthenic reforms was that of great changes both in political institutions and in popular psychology of the Athenian citizens.
We have some early examples of politically motivated (tinted) name-giving in Attica. Isagoras, the famous opponent of early democracy, had a name based on the verb isagoreuo clearly connected with political equality. Plutarch in his biographies of Themistocles and Cimon enumerated five children of these Athenian political leaders with geographic names, which may pointed out on father’s political preferences.
I will try to analyze personal names of the citizens of classical Athens with the stem dem-. They are rather common (2-3% of all Athenian personal names during all antiquity), and not only in Athens: e.g. only in Arcadia there were 39 types of personal names, beginning with dem-/dam-. Names with dem- were more common in Etolia in the third and second centuries BC, and less common in Boeotia. In Chios names with the stem dem- were rather unique (about 1%), though from archaic period we know some representatives of Chian political elite with such names, including the name of the only known Chian demagogue – Demos.
One important note before. Surely, I definitely realize that for most periods of Greek history personal names cannot be used as a source for history of political ideas.
Names in dem-/dam- can be found among mythological (Demodike, Demobhoon, Damokrateia – daughter of Zeus and Aegina) and among Homeric ones (Demodokos, Demoptolemos, Demoleon), and ‘demos’ means rather ‘community’, than ‘people’ here. Aristodemos was a very popular archaic Greek name.
The study proceeds from the premise that analyzing personal names of classical Athen’s inhabitants from this viewpoint one can reconstruct the development of democratic political ideas more precisely. The data of historical onomastics (anthroponymics) are used in this research in order to reveal the importance and the role of democratic ideology in classical Athens, to select politically tinted names and to consider them as a “marker” for ideological changes.
For the 5th century BC we have the precious evidence of public funeral inscriptions. From the time of the Persian wars, the habit of public burial of the fallen warriors, called patrios nomos developed in Athens. It included eulogy of andres genomenoi agathoi as well as erection of burial monuments listing the names of the fallen citizens according to the tribes they belonged to (demosion sema or pasi mnema Athenaios). For the 4th century of special importance are the lists of the members of Boule, prytanes and judges.
A selection of the Athenian public funeral inscriptions yields 4,5% names with the stem dem- in the Athenian civil community of the 5th–4th cc. BC. In the author’s opinion, such percentage of names with the stem dem- (4,5–5,5%) is normal for the Athenian civil community, and deviations from it within a large body of onomastic data mean either that the material selected was not representative (with preponderance of a certain layer of the community) or that bearers of the names in question were not citizens.
It is quite evident, from the one hand, that names with the stem dem- were used by foreigners to a lesser extent and were scarcely used, if ever, by non-citizens.
On the other hand, among the 5th c. BC aristocrats with strong anti-democratic attitudes such names were also extremely rare, as it is attested by the ostraka. Names with the stem dem- were wide spread both among the aristocrats with democratic attitudes and among the politically active part of the demos. This view is supported by the statistics of such names among Athenian magistrates (archons, judges), who, though they were chosen by lot, nominated themselves for the election, and by a high percentage of Athenians bearing names with the stem dem- among trierarchs in the mid-4th c. BC.
While in the 5th c. BC the average percentage of names with the stem dem among the rich Athenians practically coincides with average percentage in the whole of the civil community, and “aristocratic” names are much more common, in the 4th c. BC the situation changes. One tenth of the trierarchs of the mid-4th c. BC bear names with the stem dem-, and among “aristocratic” names those with the stem arist lose popularity, though those with the stems hipp- and kall- are still in common use.
Thus, “democratic” names (in particular, those containing the stem dem-) become “politically motivated” names of the Athenian democratic elite consisting of aristocrats with democratic attitudes and of the politically active part of the demos.
All in all, the share of names with the stem dem- in a list may be indicative of the social status of the Athenians listed.
The broad “middle-class” layer of “democratic aristocracy” was prone to use “democratically marked” names. In 5th and 4th c. Athenian aristocracy would first resort to a sort of mimicry assimilating it to the demos, and later on merged with its top. The analysis of personal names makes this process “palpable”. Besides, statistic analysis of names enables us to draw conclusions on the status or political preferences of a certain group of Athenian citizens in the classical period.
So there were no direct influence of crowd actions upon political life in archaic and classical Greece. There is no evidence to prove any serious involvement of the crowd into the political life of the Greek cities in the archaic and classical periods. The danger of crowd activities had more importance for ideology. The crowd for the opponents of democracy was an ideological image, and not a real danger.
Some personal names of the citizens of classical Athens (in particular, those containing the stem dem-) became “politically tinted” names of the Athenian democratic elite consisting of aristocrats with democratic attitudes and of politically active part of the demos.
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Íàó÷íîå èçäàíèå Êàðïþê Ñ.Ã.
Îáùåñòâî, ïîëèòèêà è èäåîëîãèÿ êëàññè÷åñêèõ Àôèí Ë.Ð. ÈÄ ¹ 01776 îò 11 ìàÿ 2000 ã.
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